I’ve been working off and on over the years to create little bits of feminist analysis on the Doctor Who companions and thought I’d share them here. There’s a demand for “strong female characters” in our popular media, and the show has responded to it. Has it succeeded or failed? Both, of course. If there is a Feminist Ideal, and could a character live up to that ideal without being overly perfect, or contradictory, or both? I found myself in the strange position of judging the female characters. (Are they strong? Do they get to be the protagonists? To what extent are they the equal of the Doctor? Which stereotypes do they fit into, and which do they resist?) How catty of me.
So here are my links. None of them represent The Final Word on feminism, the companions, or anything else. They’re what I saw, as I saw it at the time.
Zoe Heriot from the Patrick Troughton years, seasons 5 and 6. I fail to provide any criticisms whatsoever, because she was the first companion I ever saw and I simply adore her. She’s in black and white, she’s a screamer, and she’s the best.
Amy Pond in “The Eleventh Hour.” The Doctor meets the little girl Amelia Pond, and this visit marks her for life and transforms her into his perfect traveling companion. He leaves in his TARDIS, promising to return in five minutes, but instead returns when she is a grown woman. Was this accidental, or deliberate? Whose purposes did it serve?
River Song in “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead.” Fan reaction has been mixed for this character, but I argue that she is powerful throughout. I might be reading more into this character than I should, but hey, it’s fun.
River Song after “The Time of Angels” and “Flesh and Stone.” I waffle back and forth between saying she’s a stereotype and saying she isn’t, and between saying she’s powerful and saying she’s not.
Clara Oswin Oswald in Series 8, written immediately afterward and again upon more reflection. She’s both extremely powerful and strangely mired in a bad relationship that depends on her pretending to be something she’s not.
And finally, Clara Oswin Oswald’s departure in Series 9.